Union leaders have accused the Government of being “shockingly cavalier” towards fire safety in schools. They claim it is ignoring its own advice over the fitting of sprinklers. They spoke out after it was revealed that an academy almost completely destroyed by fire in 2016 is to be rebuilt without sprinklers.
The move has been described as “incomprehensible”. Now the National Education Union has sent an open letter of complaint to the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, and the Fire Brigades Union. In it, the union asks why schools, including one next to Grenfell Tower, have been classed as being at too “low risk” to benefit from sprinklers.
Fire safety ‘on the cheap’
Seventy-one people died in the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy last summer. The union is accusing the Government of “paying lip service” to its own fire safety guidance, and “allowing it to be routinely flouted in the rush to build new schools as cheaply as possible”.
Eleven years ago, a bulletin for fire safety in schools said all schools should have sprinklers apart from “a few low risk schools”. However, it is claimed that just 35 per cent of new schools have been fitted with sprinklers since 2010. The union claims the decision not to fit sprinklers at the academy is not “an isolated case”.
The open letter points out Kensington Aldridge Academy, based below Grenfell Tower, has no sprinkler system and condemns a decision to build 32 new schools in Northamptonshire without sprinklers.
It says: “We would question how a large multi-storey secondary school in central London could possibly have been assessed as one of ‘a few low risk schools’.
Postcode lottery for sprinklers
In Scotland and Wales, it is a legal requirement for all new schools to be built with sprinkler systems installed.
The union says, sprinkler systems save lives, reduce rebuild costs and time, mean less disruption for children and staff, and reduce risks to firefighters.